Despite how alternative medicine appears, it is really anything but. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which incorporates acupuncture, tui na (Chinese physical therapy), and herbology, has been used for thousands of years to aid in healing the human body, but because it is unfamiliar to most people and not commercialized, it tends to be sidelined. On that note, we want to help you two get better acquainted.
When we say that techniques of TCM aid in healing, we do so because the human body is ultimately designed to heal itself. The remedies found in TCM, acupuncture, and herbology encourage healing by balancing the body. They do not treat the symptoms of an illness. They treat the root of it.
Qi (pronounced “chi”) is the energy in the human body. Indeed, the concept of a universal flow of energy is not a new one. In Western science, Einstein established that everything is energy in his theory of special relativity. Qi flows within the body, and when it flows freely the body is in balance. When it does not and there is blockage and stagnation, we feel it as illness. Think of it this way…
Imagine a free-flowing river, the current keeping the water well-oxygenated and clean, the rocks helping filter the water. Now, imagine that a fallen tree trunk or branch creates a blockage like a partial dam. Water pools in the area, flowing very slowly if at all. Algae grows in the still water and on the rocks. Debris and detritus get caught in the dammed up portion of the river causing bacterial growth, which eventually flows downriver.
If you have ever been examined by a Doctor of TCM, you already know that it is a bit different. There are no blood tests, unless you’re talking about your pulse (which reflects circulation). Your appearance (condition of your tongue, your skin, etc.), pains, and pulse are more than enough.
Both acupuncture and herbology serve to remedy qi blockages and stagnation, which can be the root of any number of ailments (including pain), and can be used in tandem to treat more than one condition. For example, acupuncture needles are used at the point(s) of blockage while the herbs you were given promote circulation and the movement of qi.
Herbs can be in the form of pills, tea, or ointment, and if your Doctor of TCM is also an herbalist, he or she knows exactly how to combine them. A Chinese pharmacy doesn’t have Tylenol. What you will see are herbs… walls of them. Even in Western medicine, the first “pharmaceutical drugs” were herbs. Unfortunately, much of Western medicine seems to be overly concerned with treating symptoms alone, especially with regard to “Big Pharma.” While still helpful, it is only a temporary fix.
External (Which is Also Internal)
Sometimes, the root of your pain is an injury or a chronic physical condition. Acupuncture, herbology, and tui na (think physical therapy) are just as effective in treating orthopedic trauma. Many athletes, and kung fu practitioners in particular, swear by these treatments.
Injuries can result in blockages and stagnation, particularly in terms of circulation. Remember the ointment we mentioned? You would use it on, say, a sprained ankle. The herbs in such ointments each have their own properties. Turmeric, for example, promotes circulation and is instrumental in reducing inflammation. Less inflammation means less pain. As such, turmeric may be used in ointments for pain relief.
Tui Na is basically therapeutic massage. The purpose here is the same… restore balance by promoting the flow of qi through the joints, muscles, and meridians (basically channels for the qi to flow… think river again).